By Diane Swintal
Ask anyone about WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and one of the first things they will tell you is “bring a sweater.”
The cold morning fog on the Monterey Peninsula is legendary – similar to the San Francisco Bay area, which prompted the legendary quote often attributed to Mark Twain: “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
That is not the case this weekend.
The weather is a story
With the entire West Coast enduring the second week of a significant heat wave, the ambient temperatures sit at 85F with track temps of 110F, under blazing sunshine. The forecast was for 79F as a high, and we cleared that at noon.
It’s a fairly light schedule this weekend, relatively speaking, with the Road to Indy having finished the USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 series schedules last weekend in Portland. This weekend, it’s the doubleheader Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and NTT INDYCAR SERIES finales (along with the US Touring Car Championship and Spec Racer Ford series).
The INDYCAR championship title is up for grabs – but the Indy Lights title is not. All Linus Lundqvist needs to do is start today’s practice session to seal the deal on his championship victory. Where he goes in 2023 remains to be seen, but the 23-year-old Swede hopes to join his mentors Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist behind the wheel of an Indy car very soon.
But first things first. Clearly, Lundqvist would like to add to his five-win tally this season, and his nine podiums – as well as add to his history at WRLS, where he scored two podium finishes in last year’s Indy Lights doubleheader.
Second through fifth is still up for grabs – points as we start the weekend:
|3||Hunter McElrea – R||401||114|
|4||Sting Ray Robb||389||126|
It’s been a good news week for Indy Lights, with Nolan Siegel his debut with HMD Motorsports this weekend. Siegel, 17, has won races in both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000. And Cape Motorsports – moving up the ladder from USF2000 to Indy Lights in 2023 – announced that Jagger Jones (grandson of Parnelli) will also make the jump next year. Indy Pro 2000 champ Louis Foster has not yet announced where he will run in 2023 but the announcement is expected any day now.
Past WRLS / Road to Indy results
Christian Rasmussen won a USF2000 race here in 2019, with McElrea second. Sting Ray Robb scored an Indy Pro 2000 podium here that same year.
Onto the task at hand, with a one-hour practice session
Green flag at 1:20 p.m. Pacific.
Frenzied first 20 minutes of the session, outlined below:
Lundqvist with the fast out lap, bested by Jacob Abel with the first lap under 1:24 (1:23.2839).
Frost set a quick time, but Abel bested that, only to be topped by Mathew Brabham with the first sub-1:20 lap (1:19.9636).
Hunter McElrea, Lundqvist and Benjamin Pedersen each set quick laps in succession, also then bested by Brabham.
Christian Rasmussen went to the top of the charts with 42 minutes remaining.
Pedersen with the first sub 1:18 lap (1:17.8211) immediately bested by Lundqvist (1:17.6920), then Brabham (1:17.5963).
25 minutes in and less than two seconds separates the entire field.
At the halfway mark, Brabham leads Pedersen, McElrea, Lundqvist and Frost.
Red flag for Christian Bogle in the tires in turn six with 28 minutes remaining.
Green flag with 21:38 remaining.
For those of you playing at home, the term “tire deg” made it’s first appearance on IndyCar Radio 46 minutes into the first session of the weekend – tire degradation will be a storyline for both the Cooper and the Firestone tires.
Impressive first practice for Siegel, pacing only 8/10s of a second back of Brabham (1:18.3500) and setting the fastest sector one time.
With 10 minutes remaining, much of the field comes into pit lane for fresh Cooper Tires.
Speaking of impressive – Siegel goes to the top of the charts with a 1:16.9746, but 30 seconds later, Lundqvist puts down a huge lap – 1:16.2159 with six minutes left.
Robb stopped at the end of pit road, red flag with 5:35 remaining. The AMR INDYCAR Safety team on the scene, race control hopes to get Robb moved in order to give the drivers a couple more laps.
Unfortunately, Robb is apparently stuck in first gear, so it requires a wrecker to remove the car, which the track wrecker does in short order (though the team cannot have enjoyed seeing the car dangling precariously as the wrecker hauled it off the racetrack).
Green flag with just enough time for an out-and-in to check setups ahead of qualifying at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.
|Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey – Practice|
Time Remaining: 1
|CHECKERED FLAG at 14:10:01.|